A slate roof can last for 40 to 200 years, making it one of the longest lasting of all the different roof varieties. Although slate has a long history as a roofing material, it looks good enough to make it a viable modern roofing solution. Before committing to a new slate installation, make sure you and your home are ready for this material.
A Weighty Concern
Before you can spring for a new slate roof, you will need to have a full roof inspection. Slate is heavy compared to other roofing materials. The basic supports and structure of your roof must be strong enough to support both the weight of the slate shingles along with any other weight the roof is subjected to. This is especially important in areas that receive heavy snowfall, because you don't want the weight of your shingles plus the snow to result in a roof collapse.
If your roof isn't structurally strong enough to support slate safely, you don't have to give up on this option. It is possible to increase your roof's weight capacity by improving the supports and basic structure. Although this will add on to the cost of a roof replacement, you will experience longterm savings since you won't be purchasing a new roof every 20 years or so.
One of the main concerns with slate is damage. Tiles will become chipped or broken over time. Making an exact color match can be difficult, which is why most slate roofs feature slate of varying similar shades instead of a steady color throughout. By varying the slate tile colors slightly, a replacement tile won't stand out and your roof will still look good.
A chipped slate tile doesn't need immediate replacement, but if a tile is missing or broken you will want to replace promptly to avoid leaks. You can prevent tile damage by staying off the roof. If you have workmen that must access the roof, such as to repair a chimney or a rooftop AC unit, make sure they have experience with working on top slate roofs.
The good news is that slate rarely requires any maintenance beyond infrequent tile replacement. Although the slate tiles are long-lasting and maintenance-free, other parts of the roof will require some maintenance. The flashing, especially around any chimneys, will need occasional replacement. Having a roof inspection every 10 years or so will allow you to catch issues with the slate and flashings so you can fix them before the problem becomes worse. Beyond these inspections, you will want to keep your gutters clean and in good condition.
Make sure your roofer has experience with this material, because a skilled installation is the secret to ensuring your slate is a low-maintenance and long-lasting roofing material that is perennially attractive.